Goodnight, Teignbridge

Blimey, you catch up on your Wire Season 4 viewing and all hell breaks loose. It is with heavy heart and limp jaw that  bring you Richard Younger-Ross:

His expenses files show he claims on his Additional Costs Allowance for his £1,556 monthly rent but has also put in receipts for a series of high-cost furnishings.

In May 2004 he put in an invoice for a £1,475 chest of drawers and a £725 free-standing mirror bought at John Lewis. They were made from solid cherrywood by the leading French furniture maker Brigitte Forestier.

The MP was reimbursed by the fees office, although, according to the “John Lewis list”, that sets out the maximum amounts allowed for furniture, MPs are not meant to spend more than £500 on chests of drawers or £300 on mirrors.

Less than a year later, in March 2005, Mr Younger-Ross spent another £210 on a mirror from House of Fraser.

He also spent £1,123.34 on the components of a hi-fi system including an amplifier, CD player and tuner made by NAD.

…and so it goes on, bookcases with bloody silly names, voile curtains. And more mirrors. The Telegraph continues:

He said: “I was given no advice on how to spend my allowances for living in London, except that it should not include luxury or antique items. However, what I did not at the time consider to be luxury items, and what the House of Commons did not advise me were luxury items, clearly now are considered as such.

“In considering this I have therefore repaid £4,333.35 for the items concerned.”

Bzzzz. That was the incorrect response. A bit more bloody humility, please.

The sums involved here are not our biggest claim, and nowhere near the biggest claims of all across the house. But there is a clear, systematic pattern here of, well, buying expensive furniture on the taxpayer. Ming’s one-off lavishness might have cost us more in absolute terms, but in another sense it has nothing on this persistant free-spending.

Plus I’m feeling mean because this sorry tale has interrupted my Wire viewing pleasure. My first instinct, to be honest, was that he should walk the plank. His majority in Teignbridge/Newton Abbot has been lopped from 6,300 to 4,500 on the new constituency map anyway and the Tories are going to be throwing everything they’ve got at the south-west. It’s got to be worth a thought. I don’t know whether incumbency will be proof against this sort of stuff. Maybe I’m being harsh.

At the very least 4/5, a bollocking and an IKEA catalogue to Mr Younger-Ross – both the latter courtesy of Nick Clegg.

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24 Comments

  • What is telling is the absence of any guidance from the Fees Office. Clearly, Richard didn’t consider he was doing anything wrong, and neither did the Fees Office (evidently). No-one really knew what the rules were, it seems. What a bloody awful system!

    Parliament has had its share of corruption scandals in years gone by. Anyone remember a certain Reginald Maudling, and his relationship with the Freemasonic architect, John Poulson? Far more serious than any of the present tittle tattle stuff.

    Poulson actually did much more harm to the reputation of local government, where corruption really was endemic. But note. Systems were put in place to minimise it, and they to have been pretty largely successful from what I can see.

    So stop blaming poor Richard Younger-Ross for a bit of thoughtless extravagance, and focus on the system and the culture that prevailed at the time.

    The guy is whiter-than-white with a few flecks of mud. Nowhere near the hippopotamus bath occupied by the likes of Andrew McKay, Hazel Blears, et al.

  • Marie Jenkins (RYR's organiser) 15th May '09 - 11:19pm

    What The Telegraph failed to print was the last paragraph of his statement, which read:

    “I have campaigned for the abolition of this system and welcome the Daily Telegraph’s campaign even at the cost of my own embarrassment if it speeds up the process of reform and the abolition of the additional costs allowance.

    My personal view, which is well on record, is that the House of Commons should provide furnished accommodation. There would then be no need for other claims for the additional costs of having to live for part of the time in London and the system could not be abused, leading to certainty and security for everyone.”

  • Andrew Duffield 15th May '09 - 11:23pm

    All our “expense exposees” thus far have been stupid and self-serving – but small change on the Morley-McKay scale of abuse.

    The biggest scam – financially and morally – remains profiteering from second home sales. If Ming had mentioned that last night he might have fared better.

    There’s not much high ground around at present, but what little there is centres on this issue. We need to occupy it as often and for as long as possible.

    Cameron has effectively said that it’s OK for his MPs to keep 82% of unearned, taxpayer-funded public wealth. That must be our target now. No more excuses.

  • So, basically, the fact that the bloke spent nearly £1000 on two mirrors isn’t his fault. It’s “the system” that’s to blame.

    He didn’t know he was doing anything wrong (despite the fact that someone took the trouble to set out the limits in writing for him, and he exceeded them by a factor of two), and in fact he has even campaigned for the abolition of this system. Which, apparently, makes it fine for him to exploit it to the full so long as it lasts.

    And, right on cue, up pops “Sesenco” ro say “stop blaming poor Richard Younger-Ross”. Which must at least win some kind of prize for the most inappropriate adjective on this thread.

  • “So stop blaming poor Richard Younger-Ross for a bit of thoughtless extravagance, and focus on the system and the culture that prevailed at the time.”

    The problem with that argument is RYR has been an MP for the last eight years. He’s had plenty of opportunity to speak out against “the system”.

    And AGAIN we have an MP who gauged their actions by what the rules said without considering whether it was right or could be justified to the public.

    MPs have passed a code of conduct for Local Government which states:
    “Members should not place themselves in situations where their honesty and integrity may be questioned, should not behave improperly and should on all occasions avoid the appearance of such behaviour.
    Members should promote and support these principles by leadership, and by example, and should act in a way that secures or preserves public confidence.”

    That’s why I’m so critical of MPs over this. There is no such thing as an innocent MP. They have all been complicit in the operation of this system. It’s just a question of to what degree.

  • David Morton 16th May '09 - 12:10am

    I’m mindful of the Greek myth of Tantalus. Cursed by the gods to be for ever tempted by delicious food perpetualy just out of reach.

    If I’m any judge of the party after too many years as a member I think the mood hinted at o thee expenses threads and in the private forums is tis.

    That we have been sufficently less troughish than other parties to be noticed and perhaps get a small bump from it. However enough Lib Dem MP’s have been a bit troughish to mean that a “they are all at it” narrative holds sway and we never really fully grasp the oppertunity to reshape the system in this once in two generation oppertunity.

    The delicious food is right in front of us but perhaps just out side our grasp ?

  • Let’s look at the bigger picture here. RYR rents a tiny one bedroomed, unfurnished flat where he spends 3 or 4 nights a week out of his 80 hour working week. His home is a modest semi in Teignmouth. Ok, he may have been naiive in his claims and don’t forget they were approved but it’s not in the same league as flipping or claiming for a mortgage thqat doesn’t exist. RYR will not be damaged by this, he is known and respected as a hardworking MP by his constituents and is the last person who should ‘walk the plank’.

  • Painfully Liberal 16th May '09 - 12:22am

    I’ve not looked at this too thoroughly, so apply a “late friday evening” criteria to these observations on the telegraph piece:

    Some of the claims (particularly the mirrors) seem excessive and he shouldn’y have made them.

    The stereo claim apparently had written on it “as discussed and agreed in advance” so there’s certainly possible justification here. If he actually asked in advance whether a claim was acceptable and was told yes it’s hard to see what he’s done wrong there.

    then there’s this passage “The married MP went on to claim £45 for a pair of lilac lace voile curtains and £500 towards the cost of a bookcase called the “Don Juan”, which he purchased for £895.”

    Suddenly at that point in the article he’s “the married mp” is it just me or is there some squalid sexual innuendo there? “he’s married, but he bought a bookcase called Don Huan – know what I mean?”

    Are they trying to suggest that MPs must consider the name of a piece of furniture before they buy it?

  • S says ‘RYR will not be damaged by this’. Don’t you beleive it. Any MP of any party exposed for abusing the system is in danger of losing their seat – and righty so.

    The public are very angry about these abuses – and an effective campaign agaisnt them – possibly led by ‘men in white suits’ will see each and every one of them turfed out.

    RYR has no excuse regardless of taking advice – it is simply not credible (or sensible) to spend this much of other people’s money much on furnishing.

    It’s rather like being in a round in the pub and when a mate buys a round you have a pint and when it’s your shout your mate has £15 cocktail. It’s called taking the piss.

  • David Morton 16th May '09 - 1:39am

    Thee is also a bit of “purgatory” going on at the moment in terms of narrative.

    1. When will we decide wether we are Arthur or Martha about the removal of the Speaker ? More than enough fron benchers/senior MP’s have come out and said he should go to mean that the party is De Facto committed to this. However officially we are not. Given that we have as many facts as we are ever likely to have make a decision. Meanwhile it the Tory Douglas Carswell who is carving out the giant killer role.

    2. You can’t help but feel that the slightly lack of focus is because the cowley street bomb squad is still desperately trying to cut the red or the blue wire on last Sundays NoTW allegations. Until that has ben defused or the bomb goes off its difficult to set a direction.

    3. We are struggling to stay ahead of the curve. Because Cameron has moved fast we are struggling to keep clear yellow water between us. I think we are still ahead in all capital gains from MP properties going back to the tax payer after house sales but is that about it ?

    I’m beginning to wonder if somthing like a one off cut in MP’s salary or a uniform charity donation from every MP is going to be needed as a ritua gesture before people can move on.

  • Never mind the mirrors, the man needs a haircut for which, as a taxpayer, I would gladly pay.
    If the fraud squad don’t feel his collar the fashion police should. Once they’ve finished waterboarding Lembit Opik for his celeb exploits of course.
    Mind you, the cheeky girls might be useful in Teignmouth come election time.
    What a wonderful lot Lib Dem MPs are!

  • Arrr, ppfffftttt. My former MP. Hmmmmm.

    Well I can understand fitting out your home to the best possible style (he says patting his Georgian table) – but……

    Oh well. His neighbours haven’t come out of this smelling of roses either.

  • Simon McGrath 16th May '09 - 5:25pm

    These amount that Richard spent don’t seem very much to me. perhaps a bit over the top but nothing like most of the other scandals

  • I agree with Hywell (not that unusual)…

    But here’s the text of a letter that one of my local MPs Edward Davey is sending to his constituents. How many MPs (of all parties) can say the same?

    In my view its the minimum required for any MP to hold their seat. How many Lib Dems (or other parties) can give the same commitment?

    ——–
    Dear Resident

    I am sure you are as angry as I am about the abuse of MPs’ expenses.

    In 1997, when I was first elected, I took 3 decisions:
    1. Not to claim everything “the rules” said I could claim
    2. Not to employ any family members
    3. And to publish my expenses regularly.

    So I do not claim for a second home – or for food or furniture or, for that matter, moats or swimming pools! I’ve never in 12 years claimed for any car mileage or petrol. And you have my absolute guarantee that I never will.

    I won’t waste your money. I’ll always be open over my expenses. And I’ll continue to vote for far-reaching reforms of MPs’ expenses and the House of Commons. You can see full details of my expenses on my website – http://www.edwarddavey.co.uk

    Yet it’s not just at Westminster that some MPs have been caught with their fingers in the till. The expenses of European MPs are equally as squalid as Westminster ones.

    And even the minor parties have been involved: one UKIP MEP was sent to prison for claiming £70,000 fraudulently and another was arrested three weeks ago on charges of fiddling his expenses to the tune of nearly £40,000.

    This has got to stop. It’s time to clean up politics, get a grip on MP and MEP expenses and drive out the rogues – of all parties – who have abused the public’s trust.

    So you can see the election on June 4th is very important.

    Yours sincerely

    Edward Davey
    Kingston and Surbiton

  • Lucky for RYR that next door Tory MP Steen claimed for work to 500 trees on his estate,m which makes it very difficult for the moat & chanedelier party to run with this one.

  • “I agree with Hywell (not that unusual)…”

    It saves a lot of time when people do that 🙂

    Ed’s letter is one of the best and clearest I’ve seen. Why is this not being circulated as a “best practice” text to other seats?

  • As a constituent of RYR I think a lot of people writing here may be surprised to know that it is alleged that RYR’s full expenses bill for 07/08 financial year was £157,841,00 if believed, then for his “small one bedroom London flat” he claimed Additional Costs Allowance of £22,228,00 a lot more than most of his struggling constituents who live on pay and benefits far below this sum in one of the most deprived areas of Devon. Again if correct he claimed Incidental Expenses Provision of £29,819,00 apparently this payment goes towards running his office and other expenses. Not in central London but in Newton Abbott, speak to local businesses on how much rent and running an office they pay locally. I’m afraid that his excuse that he was not offered any advice is very weak, the “Green Book” clearly states that an MP should not claim for luxury items and only those necessary for their duties in the House. £725.00 for a mirror, over £1200,00 for a Hi-Fi, he has agreed to pay back to us the taxpayer £4.333.34,00 spent on luxury items, after he was challenged with publication in the press, we only know about these due to a “leak” from the fees office, is there more to come out? Some local Lib/Dem Councillors seem to think so, a sentiment they are voicing privately.
    In addition RYR has publicly stated that he voted repeatedly for open exposure and reform on expenses and yet it is alleged that only two and half weeks ago on the 30th of April when Parliament voted on a motion to remove an MPs allowance to employ assistants and staff and that all employment contracts would be between staff and Parliament directly, a motion that would stop MP’S wife’s or “Party Activists” being employed by the MP and make the whole process more open to public scrutiny as employees will be governed by Civil Service rules and appointed by them, RYR voted against it. Why? Has it something to do with the alleged sum of £78,978 Staffing Allowance, “when I entered Public Service over 30 years ago I was told “just because you can does not mean you should” if you think this has not damaged RYR locally then you are not listening to the people.

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